(Beauty) dreams do come true! At the age of Almost 37, I’ve acquired the long, lush, always curled, (semi)permanently fluttery eyelashes of my wildest (beauty) fantasies. My eyelash extensions are my absolute favorite thing right now, and I’ve been dying to tell you guys about them!
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If you’ve read about my Asian Eyelash Problems and the lengths (har har) I’ve gone to solve them, you already know that my lashes are one of the banes of my beauty existence. I’ve wanted extensions ever since Beauty and the Cat’s Renee blogged about hers.
Eyelash extensions are a pretty significant investment, however, so I spent a year sulkily longing for them before making the commitment. I finally gave in when I found a local lash artist who’d built up enough of a reputation and clientele to own her own lash-focused salon. That was about six weeks ago.
Getting Eyelash Extensions
My lash artist Ashley Thompson, owner of Carlsbad, CA-based Lashes by Ashley, is a licensed esthetician and lash extension expert. Her own extensions (done by one of the lash artists who works at her salon) are spectacular. Ashley’s standards are visibly high, and her shop is immaculate, both very good signs.
Before installing my initial full set, Ashley took a careful look at what nature had (not) given me and recommended starting out conservatively. I don’t have many lashes. The ones I have are not that beefy. Putting too much stress on them in the form of excessively long or heavy extensions could cause them to break off prematurely and leave me in worse shape than before.
(So, no extreme lash drama like some other clients shown on Ashley’s Instagramyet. I’d rather start small than lose all my lashes. A full set of natural lashes would take a damn long time to grow back.)
We decided to start with classic extensions. Unlike the “volume” or “Russian volume” style of extensions, in which the lash artist glues 2-3 extensions onto an individual natural eyelash, classic extensions are applied 1:1, one extension per natural lash. According to Ashley, volume extensions are generally a bit shorter than classic ones to reduce the weight on the lash, and the individual lashes are thinner. In addition to using thicker individual lashes, the classic style tends to give more length. And speaking of length, Ashley determined down to the millimeter just how much length she thought my natural lashes could support. We agreed to a max length of about 12mm.
Then I plopped down in a comfy massage chair, let her lean me back, wiggled my butt in excitement, and let her get to work.
Bare, clean lids and lashes are critical to getting eyelash extensions that last. I skipped eye cream and eye makeup the day of my appointment, and once Ashley had me in the chair and under the light, she cleaned my eye area with her house-label lash cleanser. She then got my lower lashes out of the way. I’ve heard of places that do so by taping the lower lashes down, but she uses a tool that K-beauty fans may find familiar: a gel undereye patch!
The gel eye patches she uses aren’t the juicy kind that come in a tub, though, since the juiciness would interfere with lash application. While they plump and mildly brighten as expected, Ashley’s Yimart patches* have a coated side that stays dry, much like Elizavecca’s Hydro-Gel Bouncy Eye Patches*. Let’s not get sidetracked by the surprise skincare treat, though. Even though I got a serious kick out of it. I enjoy those Elizavecca eye patches a lot, so I thoroughly appreciated a free application of a similar product. ANYWAY.
After cleansing my eye area and restraining my lower lashes, Ashley had me close my eyes and got to work.
Eyelash extensions demand a hefty time investment, especially the first time around. The more lashes you have, the longer it takes, and even with my sparse lashes, I spent a good two hours in the chair, alternating between chatting and dozing off (the “lash nap” is apparently common enough to have a name, so don’t judge me).
Eyelash extensions also demand precision and a steady hand.
Seriously, those tweezers are sharp.
Luckily, expert lash artists have plenty of practice fitting extensions onto lashes using pointy-ass tweezers without jabbing clients in the eyeball. All I felt for those two hours was the occasional gentle tug on my lashes. I’ve pulled them harder myself while rubbing my eyes than she ever did while putting on my new lashes. It was fine. I mean, I fell asleep, which even I wouldn’t have been able to do if I’d been feeling any pain or fear.
The only discomfort I experienced while having my lashes installed came from the glue. Ashley explained that although the adhesive used for lash extensions is safe, the fumes can cause eyes to burn a little. She had me tell her whenever my eyes started to sting so that she could pause and use a fan to dry the glue, which stops the burning and prevents eyes from watering. This is important not just for comfort but also for the extensions, since getting the glue wet too soon after application will cause it to break down. The burning was infrequent, mild, and easy to remedy, however.
After a couple of hours, my first set of lashes was done and my day (and week and possibly month or maybe even year) was made.
And again, with eyes open:
I love, love, love having lash extensions. I’ve always found curling my lashes and applying mascara incredibly tedious and difficult and not particularly rewarding, but I’ve always put up with the annoyance because I don’t look polished (or alert, even) if I don’t. My extensions shave 5-10 minutes off of my morning makeup routine and shorten my evening makeup removal step by a good few minutes too. I also find myself using less eye makeup in general because I can skip it without looking undone.
Eyelash extensions aren’t for everyone. They’re costly–the rates at Ashley’s salon are pretty standard–and in addition to the initial 2+ hour appointment, they require 45 minutes or so for each fill. They’re absolutely worth it for me, though. I’m able and willing to spend some money in order to save a lot of hassle and get better results. I’m also willing to make a few changes to my routine to protect my investment.
How long do eyelash extensions last, and how do you maintain them?
Just like skincare, lash care is YMMV. Everyone will grow and lose lashes at a slightly different rate. I can go about 3 weeks in between fills without getting too scraggly, as long as I’m taking proper care of the extensions. A qualified lash artist will go over lash extension care with you, but here are a couple of tips:
- After getting eyelash extensions or fills, make sure not to let them get wet for at least 24 hours. The glue can take that long to fully cure, and getting it wet before it’s cured will significantly weaken it. I screwed up my first set royally by forgetting and taking a shower the night after I had my lashes done. They fell off at an alarming rate. Now that I remember to keep them dry for 24 hours, I hardly notice any coming out–the extensions really only fall off when one of my lashes is at the natural end of its life cycle.
- Don’t get any oils on or near the extensions. This includes cleansing oils, of course, as well as facial oils and moisturizers. Oil will break down the glue. You don’t want to break down the glue. I now moisturize very carefully around my eyes with only non-oily creams. I also switched from cleansing oil to cleansing water for my first cleanser for several weeks. I’ve since gone back to cleansing oils but am careful not to get the oil anywhere near my eyes. When emulsifying and rinsing in the shower, I tip my head back so that it runs off into my hairline rather than down my forehead onto my eyes. For actual eye makeup removal, I use the cleanser Ashley sells. Take your lash artist’s eye makeup remover suggestions seriously.
- After cleansing or showering, very gently pat lashes dry with a towel and brush into shape with a clean mascara spoolie (which your lash artist should provide). Don’t let wet lash extensions dry naturally, since this can cause clumping. Don’t overbrush extensions, though. Brush briefly once or twice a day as needed.
- Try not to sleep with your face mashed into your pillow if you can help it. The extra tugging will cause the lash extensions to fall off faster. Also try not to rub your eyes. I found this habit way easier to break than I expected. Actually, I don’t think I’ve rubbed my eyes once since I got the extensions. My hands just refuse to do it, because they remember how much my lashes cost and how much I love them.
What to look for in a lash artist
The last time I went in for a fill, Ashley and I got to talking about how to choose a lash artist to do your eyelash extensions.
Lashes might be frivolous, but choosing the right person to apply the extensions is serious business. This is something that someone will be doing by your eyes, so safety comes first! Make sure the salon you’re considering is sanitary and that staff members are using clean tools.
Also make sure that your lash artist is a licensed esthetician. When in doubt, ask to see their license. The learning and certification process for lash artists can be quite brief and is done through the eyelash manufacturers, Ashley explained, so there are “lash artists” doing business who don’t have the extensive training in hygiene and sanitary working practices that licensed estheticians do.
As for finding lash artists to choose from in the first place, referrals are the best place to start. Do you know someone with lash extensions you wish you had? Ask them who does theirs. If you’re planning on being the first person you know with eyelash extensions, Google reviews of lash artists and salons in your area to begin narrowing down your options. Lash extensions are getting more and more popular, and unfortunately that means that shady practitioners are popping up just about everywhere. The more you know about your options, the better your chances will be of having a great experience instead of a regrettable one that leaves your lashlines bald.
Are you thinking about getting eyelash extensions? Why or why not?